Pairing: Cabernet is beautiful with ratatouille
Cabernet sauvignons from Jordan Winery have always been among the most elegant, beautiful examples of this varietal, and our Wine of the Week, Jordan 2015 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($57) is no exception. Indeed, it is a gorgeous expression of the grape, the appellation, and the winery.
The wine is always generous and layered, but without being a fruit bomb. It is refined and dignified, a Gregory Peck sort of wine, without youthful brashness.
The wine has much in common with the grape’s homeland of Bordeaux, France, with the silken tannins and dignity of the wine’s French cousins.
This wine is, of course, a perfect match with beef and lamb. The concentrated flavors of skirt steak make the wine soar and the succulence of rare rack of lamb impacts the wine similarly. Yet it is also beautiful with a selection of summer’s vegetables, especially sweet peppers, eggplant, ripe tomatoes, and zucchini. What better summer companion for the wine than a French-style ratatouille, served at room temperature.
This dish should be prepared a day in advance, as the flavors merge and blossom overnight. And don’t be put off by the quantity; it will be excellent for a few days after it is prepared. It is also perfect for a summer dinner party, as it is delicious, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan. If you’re serving a mixed group, you might add poached and chilled eggs, grilled portobello mushrooms, and grilled skirt steak or hanger steak, prepared at the last minute. It’s a crowd pleaser, as is this lovely wine.
Makes 12 to 16 Servings
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
— Kosher salt
1 pound yellow onions, peeled and cut into medium dice
12 Italian parsley sprigs
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon fennel seed
1 bay leaf
1 pound large red sweet peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound zucchini, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 pound ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
1 lemon, cut in half
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
— Several basil leaves, cut into very thin ribbons
Put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large heavy skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir to coat the onions in the olive oil. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes; do not let them brown or burn.
Cut two 8-inch squares of cheesecloth, set them on top of each other, and add the parsley sprigs, thyme, fennel seed, and bay leaf. Use kitchen twine to tie up the cheesecloth packet and set it in the pan, with the onions.
When the onions are tender, season them with salt, and stir in the sweet peppers. Cook for about 2 minutes, add the eggplant, and cook, covered, until the eggplant is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir now and then so that the eggplant does not stick to the pan.
Pour the remaining olive oil into a second skillet, set over medium heat, add the zucchini, and cook until it loses its raw look and is slightly tender but not mushy, about 7 minutes. Use a thin metal spatula to turn it now and then. Season with salt and remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, season the onions with salt, add the tomatoes, and cook, covered, over low heat until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Use tongs to remove and discard the cheese cloth packet.
Gently tip the zucchini into the onion mixture but do not stir it.
Set a colander in the pan that held the zucchini and tip all the vegetables and juices into the colander. Stir gently a time or two and let sit until the vegetables release no more liquid.
Put the vegetables into a wide shallow serving bowl.
Set the pan with the vegetable liquid over high heat and simmer until it is thick and syrupy. Pour the syrup over the vegetables, stir gently, taste and correct for salt.
Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 8 hours; overnight is best.
To serve, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes in advance. Taste, correct for salt and pepper and squeeze lemon juice over the ratatouille.
Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley and basil, serve right away, neat or topped with poached eggs, grilled portbello mushrooms, grilled skirt steak or hanger steak or grilled lamb chops.
Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at email@example.com.